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Playing Their Own Twin

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There are times when one person is played by a set of twins, and there are times when a set of twins are played by twins (or triplets, etc.). What's rarer is when a pair of twins are played by the same person.

Of course, there are more actors without twins than there are pairs of twins who are actors. Finding a pair that are identical enough and are both suitable for the part may be very hard and much more effort than just the one.

Reasons for casting this way include when on long runners the twin reveal is a plot device thought up for an already developed character later on, and the actor hasn't got a twin. Other times, the production really wanted to hire a certain actor because of their marketability or skill massively outweighing pairs of twins that auditioned. Necessarily they are Always Identical Twins. The role in the story may take the form of the Backup Twin.

However, though it may seem as though you could save money by hiring one actor to play two parts, it may cost more. If the twins ever interact then you're going to need to hire at least one other person to be a stand-in (and spend a lot of time finding someone who looks like the twin actor) as well as spend twice as long filming these scenes. You're also going to be paying the actor for two roles, not one. Still, the availability of twin-less actors plus their appeal may start saving the production money and bring in more viewers, so earning the money back more. As well as that, some specialist acting agencies for twins ramp up the hiring cost because of the scarcity of genuine twin roles and/or actors.

A form of Acting for Two and usually achieved via Double Vision. The opposite of Making Use of the Twin.

There can also be In-Universe examples, for when there is a Show Within a Show. If a character pretends to have a twin that's the Fake Twin Gambit.

Note that only examples of twin/related characters should be listed: clones, doppelgängers, and other identical counterparts are more typically played by the same actor and not part of this trope. Voice Actors who voice both of a pair of twins go on Talking to Himself.


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • In a 1990s commercial for Diet Pepsi, Ray Charles introduces his twin brother Irv Charles, also played by Ray. In addition, the Raeletts (a trio of backup singers) have a set of twins, the Irvettes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Done in both versions of The Parent Trap (the Hayley Mills original and the Lindsay Lohan version). The lead plays both separated at birth twins, as they were split as part of their parents' divorce proceedings and kept secret from each other. They swap places to get to know their other parent after meeting at camp before planning to get them back together.
  • Lindsay Lohan had another outing as twins separated at birth in I Know Who Killed Me, in which she played the bright-eyed and studious Aubrey, who turns up missing; meanwhile, her long-lost twin Dakota—a stripper who was abducted, tortured, and mutilated—suddenly surfaces and is mistaken for the former twin.
  • In the Christopher Nolan film The Prestige, Christian Bale portrays a magician and his identical twin brother, who is heavily disguised and passed off as an assistant whenever they appear together. The two brothers swap roles of magician and assistant, and when one of them loses a finger to injury, they work together to amputate the same finger from the previously-uninjured twin to maintain their role-swapping options.
  • In There Will Be Blood, Paul Dano plays both Eli Sunday, the two-faced young preacher who squares off against Daniel Plainview, and Paul Sunday, Eli's brother who leads Plainview to the oil on his family's land in exchange for a finder's fee. Dano was originally cast in the much smaller part of Paul, but when the actor who played Eli suddenly left the production, he took the starring role of Eli on short notice. This is played for a gag when Daniel does a Double Take on meeting Eli for the first time after having already dealt with Paul.
  • The Man in the Iron Mask goes with the theory that the titular man was Louis XIV's secret twin, with both being played by Leonardo DiCaprio. (This has been true of every film version of the story.)
  • Double Impact and Maximum Risk both feature Jean-Claude Van Damme playing two twin brothers.
  • Dead Ringers: Jeremy Irons plays twin brothers Elliot and Beverly Mantle, two wealthy private practice gynaecologists. Their interaction was mostly achieved via split screen.
  • In The Social Network, both Winklevoss twins were played by Armie Hammer. The production team used an innovative VFX technique in which Hammer acted alongside a body double, Josh Pence, while his scenes were filmed, and Hammer's face was later digitally grafted onto Pence's face during post-production.
  • In Legend, Tom Hardy portrays both Ronald and Reginald Kray, the infamous twin London Gangsters.
  • Shock Treatment has Cliff de Young play Brad Majors and Farley Flavors, who are revealed to be separated by adoption twin brothers.
  • Bette Davis in A Stolen Life and Dead Ringer.
  • In Adaptation., Nicolas Cage plays both Charlie Kaufman (a fictionalized version of the film's screenwriter) and Donald Kaufman, his fictional twin brother.
  • Edward Norton plays two twins in Leaves of Grass.
  • Chris Rock plays two identical twins in Bad Company.
  • Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin each play a pair of identical twins in Big Business.
  • Freddie Highmore plays twins Jared and Simon in The Spiderwick Chronicles. Reportedly a number of viewers didn't know the characters were meant to be twins and thought Simon was played by another actor.
  • Sean Young plays twins Ellen and Dorothy in A Kiss Before Dying.
  • In Constantine Angela Dodgson is a twin, whose sister kills herself at the beginning of the film. Both are played by Rachel Weisz.
  • in The Cable Guy, Ben Stiller plays former TV child star Sam Sweet who is on trial for the murder of his twin brother Stan Sweet, also played by Stiller. Though the trail doesn't play into the main plot at all, they tie together into a joke at the end of the film when Ernie falls onto a satillite dish, disrupting the transmission all over town just as the verdict of the trial is being announced.
  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays identical twins Lucas and Jeffrey Desange in Mama. In the film, the latter dies in the opening act while the former fights child custody to be the legal guardian of the latter's now orphaned daughters.
  • In Bowfinger, Eddie Murphy plays Kit Ramsay and his nerdy twin brother Jiff.
  • In Jack and Jill, Adam Sandler plays both the main character and the character's twin sister.
  • In Inseparable, Benedict Cumberbatch plays Joe and Charlie.
  • The film My Brother's Keeper features Aaron Ashmore playing twin brothers. The irony? He has a twin who is also an actor (Shawn Ashmore) but was used for stunt work.
  • In Now You See Me 2, Woody Harrelson reprises his role from the first film, but also plays the character's twin brother, who was never mentioned in the first movie. In addition, the twin is secretly working for Arthur Tressler, the Big Bad.
  • In Wonder Man Danny Kaye plays Edwin Dingle and his twin Buzzy Bellew.note 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ringer: Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a pair of twins, one of which dies in the first episode (except she doesn't) and the other pretends to be her.
  • Arrested Development
    • George Bluth Sr. and Oscar Bluth are both played by Jeffrey Tambor.
    • It also has an exaggerated and quite literal example with the Richter quintuplets (all Andy Richter): Andy, the show off; Chareth, the flirt; Donny, the sensitive one; Rocky, Andy's stunt double; and Emmett, who asked that his face not be shown on camera (even though it looks like his brothers'). This is also an Actor Allusion to Richter's role as the father on the short-lived Quintuplets.
  • Ghost Whisperer had an episode where the ghost of one twin haunted her sister. Both were played by Jessica Collins.
  • Liv and Maddie Rooney of Liv and Maddie are both played by Dove Cameron. They do interact a lot, so there are stand-ins as well as shots being combined to show both of their faces. The title sequence notably has Liv taking a selfie of the pair, obviously both in shot. Somehow, though (probably because Liv is likely wearing heels while Maddie isn't), Liv is taller. (In "Helgaween-A-Rooney," she plays triplets.)
  • Bewitched. Elizabeth Montgomery played both Samantha and her mischevious twin cousin Serena, however, because the characters were so different that many fans were unaware that Elizabeth played both parts; to keep the charade going, she adopted a psuedonym when credited for Serena as Pandora Spocks.
  • I Dream of Jeannie. Barbara Eden plays not only Jeannie, but Jeannie's evil twin sister (whose name is also Jeannie), and their mother (whose name is also Jeannie as well).
  • In Popular a number of twins show up, and many are played by the same person, such as Emory Dick's younger sisters (who are the Alpha Bitches at their school) played by Alessandra Torresani.
  • In one episode on the Israeli sitcom Shemesh, the eponymous main character dates a woman, played by singer and actress Michal Tzafir (who has three siblings but no twin sister) who claims her identical twin sister is a kleptomaniac to explain why some shop owners angrily kick her out of their shops. At first he's delighted at the prospect of a Twin Threesome Fantasy coming true, but later she invites her sister to meet him at the restaurant he owns, and when she does they keep stepping out to call the other and just barely missing each other repeatedly (both are wearing the same outfit, except one of them has a scarf). He thinks it's a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story meant to cover for her kleptomania and breaks it off, citing trust issues. The next day, both twins come to his restaurant, and when he tries to go back on his decision, his ex refuses, citing trust issues.
  • The Columbo episode "Double Shock" featured Martin Landau portraying identical twins who use their looks to murder their rich uncle and cover their tracks.
  • Phoebe on Friends and her twin sister Ursula are both played by Lisa Kudrow. It should be noted that Ursula was originally the ditzy waitress from Mad About You. In order to 'explain' why Lisa Kudrow was on two shows, they had a two-part crossover revealing that Ursula was Phoebe's sister.
  • On Orphan Black, two of the numerous clones played by Tatiana Maslany turn out to be Separated at Birth twins: Sarah and Helena.
  • Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: Martin Mull plays Garth Gimble, who dies after being impaled on a Christmas tree, and his twin brother Barth, host of Fernwood Tonight.
  • Night Court: William Utay plays Phil, a homeless bum who befriends Dan. After Phil's death Utay plays his Evil Twin Will.
  • In Quantico, Nimah and Raina Amin are both played by Yasmine Al Massri.
  • In the Supergirl series, Alura Zor-El and her Evil Twin Astra are played by the same actress.
  • Once Upon a Time uses this with The Reveal early on that Charming was actually a twin separated at birth - with the other brother being raised as a prince. After his death, the twin is used to impersonate him. Josh Dallas plays both brothers, though they're never on screen together and James (the deceased one) only appears in a couple of flashbacks. They finally share the screen in Season 6.
  • In-universe in Scrubs where the Janitor pretends to have a twin brother. He fools no one.
  • Soap Opera All My Children:
    • David Canary played both Adam and Stuart Chandler.
    • During Julianne Moore's run as Frannie Hughes, she discovers a twin sister/cousin (Sabrina, also played by Moore) while attending Oxford.
  • In The Lying Game, Alexandra Chando plays Separated at Birth twins Emma Becker and Sutton Mercer.
  • Celina Jade plays Shado and her Canon Foreigner Backup Twin Mei in Arrow.
  • On iCarly, Jennette McCurdy plays both Sam and her nicer girly twin, Melanie, in the episode iTwins. She reprises both roles in the Sam & Cat episode #Twinfection.
  • The season six finale of Pretty Little Liars reveals that Alison's mother Jessica (murdered several episodes back) has a twin sister in CeCe's mother Mary. Andrea Parker plays both roles.
  • Patty Duke would play identical twin cousins Patty and Cathy Lane on The Patty Duke Show, and would guest star on Liv and Maddie in 2015 (her final television role) as the title twins' grandmother Janice and her identical twin sister Hillary in allusion to the 1960s series.
    • In addition, William Schallert also played Patty and Cathy's identical twin fathers, Martin and Kenneth (respectively) in three episodes of The Patty Duke Show
    • She reprised her signature role(s) in a TV-movie reunion as well as a series of commercials for the Social Security Administration.
  • Parodied In-Universe in a "behind the scenes" episode of Childrens Hospital, where it's shown that one actor once played the part of a a character and his identical twin brother. The joke is that the actor already had an identical twin brother, and the producers had decided that using then-state-of-the-art CGI technology would be cheaper than hiring another actor.
  • Happened a couple of times on Home and Away. In the early days, Sharyn Hodgson had to double up as Carly Morris' twin sister Samantha whenever she appeared. Several years later, it turned out Kirsty Sutherland had an Identical Twin, Laura Degroot, who had been swapped at birth with another girl who was brought up as Kirsty's twin sister Jade; Christie Hayes played both Kirsty and Laura.
  • On both Les Revenants and its American remake The Returned, the actress who plays Camille (Yara Pilartz and India Ennenga, respectively) also plays her twin Lena in scenes set before Camille's death.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Identical characters pop up all the time here.
    • Joxer is one of identical triplets, all played by Ted Raimi. Each of the other two (Jett and Jace) appears separately in a different episode.
    • Gabrielle's daughter Hope, who when she grows up (unusually fast, but Justified because the father is an evil god) is identical to her mother, and is also played by Reneé O'Connor. Hope impersonates Gabrielle on a number of occasions, and Gabrielle returns the "favor" at least once. The "three naked Gabrielles" of the episode "The Quill Is Mightier..." do not fit this trope, as they were played by body doubles, and O'Connor's face appears only in a couple of close-ups.
    • Lawless, O'Connor and Raimi also play descendants of their characters in the Clip Show episode "The Xena Scrolls".
  • In Baskets, Zach Galifianakis plays twins Chip and Dale Baskets. In contrast, their twin brothers by adoption Cody and Logan are played by actual twins Garry and Jason Clemmons respectively.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch reveals in Season 3 that all the Spellmans have an Evil Twin. Naturally when Sabrina and Zelda's appear, Melissa Joan Hart and Beth Broderick double up to play them (named Katrina and Jessebelta respectively).
  • The Flash (2014) has this starting with Season 2, which introduced The Multiverse. The current record is held by Tom Cavanagh, who plays numerous versions of Harrison Wells across dimensions (as well as Eobard Thawne, who has taken on Wells's appearance, a shapeshifter doing the same, and Iris using a holo-disguise). Grant Gustin has played Barry, his non-meta doppelganger from Earth 2, the previously-mentioned shapeshifter, several versions of his past and future self, a time remnant in Season 2 finale, and Savitar (another time remnant with A God Am I complex). Besides them, several characters have interacted with their Earth 2 doppelgangers, such as Cisco, Caitlin, and Linda Park.
    • Several Legends of Tomorrow episodes have the Legends interacting with their own doubles (or manifestations of them).

    Web Comics 
  • IDGet explored this in a 2007 strip regarding odd casting choices in movies, including Lindsay Lohan as twins in The Parent Trap, which Lindsay justifies by saying, "What? It's not as if twins exist in real life."


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